We are in Dawson City for two days and we took the opportunity of having a rest day today, our second day here. We spent the morning walking around the streets of Dawson City taking in the architecture and the atmosphere of this town. We feel as though we are visiting the set of a movie and re-visiting the scenes of the early wild west shows that we watched on TV. This town still has dirt roads (some if which were being re-graded to today) and wooden sidewalks with steps at the street corners.. There are some very interesting streetscapes here. All new buildings must be constructed in sympathy with the early buildings but many are clearly very old and original (especially those that lean sideways somewhat).
Located on the junction of the Yukon and Klondike Rivers, Dawson City was the centre of the Klondike Gold Rush which began in 1896 (well after the Australian Gold Rushes). Dawson became a thriving city of 40,000 people with all the facilities that supported the rough and tough miners of the day. By 1899, the gold rush had ended and the town’s population plummeted go only about 8,000 people. The population dropped again after World War II when the Alaska Highway bypassed it 480 km to the south. This resulted in the city of Whitehorse overtaking Dawson in size and replacing it as the capital of the Yukon Territory.
A little way out of town, along Bonanza Creek is the site where gold was first found and the stampede to the Yukon began. We found a couple of prospectors panning for gold in an area that is not claimed by any others. Where they are panning is right near the location where George Carmack, Skookum Mason and Dawson Charlie first found gold. Their discovery sparked an unprecedented stampede. Tens of thousands of would-be prospectors left their homes from all over the world, although they mainly came from the United States, and headed for the Klondike. There is nothing in this area now, although some people are still mining along the creek valley. In 1903, near the place where this photo was taken there was a bustling town with a population of nearly 4000 people.
Further down the creek valley is Gold Dredge No 4. There were once nine of these monsters sifting through the alluvial deposits and extracting gold from the silt in the creek valley. This one alone, extracted four tonnes of gold during its working life. It’s now being restored by the Canadian National Parks Service.
It was built in 1912 for the Canadian Klondike Mining Company It is 8 stories high. It has a displacement weight of over 3,000 tonnes, and scraped silt and rock from the creek bed with a chain of buckets, each with a 1/2 cubic metre bucket capacity. The dredge could dig 17 metres below water level, and 5 metres above water level using hydraulic winches and by washing the gravel banks down. The dredge was electrically powered from the Company’s hydro plant on the Klondike River about 48 kilometres away, It moved along on a pond of its own making, digging gold bearing gravel in front, recovering the gold through a revolving screen washing plant, then depositing the gravel out the stacker at the rear. These dredges were a very efficient means of mining for gold.
Back in Dawson City sits a vessel of another kind. The SS Keno is a preserved historic stern wheel paddle steamer She was constructed in 1922, in Whitehorse, by the British Yukon Navigation Company. For most of its career it transported silver, zinc and lead ore down the nearby Stewart River. She was retired from commercial service in 1951 due to the extension and improvement of the Klondike Highway in the years after World War II. However, she remains representative off the extensive river trade that supported communities along the rivers in this area.